This summer’s festivals: Don’t get wasted

This summer's festivals: Don't get wasted

In April this year, 61 independent British festivals, including Bestival, Boardmasters and End of the Road pledged to ban single-use plastic from their sites by 2021. Led by the Association of Independent Festivals, the Drastic on Plastic initiative aims to completely eliminate plastic drinks bottles, straws, glitter, food trays, cable ties and toiletry bottles from festival sites. Glastonbury has also announced that at next year’s (2019) festival there will be a site-wide ban on plastic bottles.

While commitments have been made for future years, we’re looking at the initiatives being run this summer: from reverse vending machines for plastic bottles to bans on straws and glitter to pre-pitched tents and Eco-bonds, here are some of the most significant schemes currently in action.

Plastic cups

In the wake of the huge shift in how plastic is viewed in the public consciousness that has taken place over the last year, many festivals are tackling the issue head-on.

In an environment where a beer in your hand is almost obligatory, plastic cups have been a major cause of plastic pollution. Most UK festivals have, by now, settled on some type of cup-deposit scheme. Sturdier cups are supplied – sometimes, in the case of festivals such as Latitude, they are embroidered with the festival’s name, logo or lineup. After charging a deposit – often £2-3 – you take the cup back, hand it in and get a new cup. You can return the cup and receive the full deposit, or take it home as a souvenir.

Latitude festival reported that in 2017 an average of one cup per person was kept as a souvenir, and that its deposit scheme contributed to a reduction in waste of seven tonnes compared to 2016.

Reading and Leeds festivals, meanwhile, have joined forces with Greenpeace and, while the cups are disposable ones, every plastic bottle and cup will have a 10p refundable deposit – if you bring back 10 you get a pound, or if you bring back a full recycling bag of bottles you get a full £5.

Additionally, at Green Man, reusable coffee cups are available to buy, and as an incentive there is a 50p discount at the Table Top coffee stalls if customers use a reusable cup.

Plastic bottles

Many festivals are addressing the problem posed by plastic bottles, though Shambala has been leading the way with a site-wide ban on the sale of drinks in plastic bottles since 2014, instead asking conscientious carousers to bring reusable bottles. They have also installed additional water points and offer free chilled filtered water at the bars.

One of the most ambitious schemes being trialled this summer is run by the Co-operative supermarket. In order to encourage the recycling of plastic bottles, the retailer is launching a reverse vending machine at four of the largest festivals: Download, Latitude, Reading and Leeds.

In the pop-up Co-op stores onsite a mandatory deposit will be added to the price of bottled water, and when customers return them to the reverse vending machine they will receive a voucher to spend in the store.

Jo Whitfield, Retail CEO, Co-op, said: “As the UK’s leading ethical retailer there’s nowhere better for us to start our trial of reverse vending machines than at some of the UK’s most well-loved festivals.

“Reducing the amount of plastic that makes its way to landfill is really important to us and our members. I’m excited that, in partnership with Live Nation and Recycling Options, we have the opportunity to bring these machines to the UK only a few months after they were officially given the green light by the Government. We’re committed to giving our customers ways to make more ethical choices, so this is a hugely exciting milestone in our sustainability journey to achieve our future aim of making all of our food packaging 100 per cent recyclable.”

This summer's festivals: Don't get wasted
Glitter has come under increasing attack this year

In addition to obvious plastic items such as cups and bottles, Shindig, Shambala and Green Man festivals have turned attention onto microplastics.

In January, the UK Government banned microbeads in cosmetics, and while microbeads in glitter are still legal, the action raised awareness of the damaging effect they can have on our oceans. In response, Shindig publicly encouraged festival-goers to bring only biodegradable glitter, while Green Man has stated that all of its traders and face painters will be using only biodegradable glitter made from plant cellulose and metallised aluminium. Shambala has gone even further – citing lack of evidence that biodegradable glitters are significantly more environmentally friendly – and encouraged festival-goers to forego glitter altogether, stating its preference for face paints or paper petals.

Encouraging recycling

At Green Man, all campers are provided with plastic bags on arrival, clear for recycling and black for non-recyclable waste, however some festivals use incentives, as well as bags.

Bestival and Shambala are both running schemes to encourage recycling and waste collection. As part of a new initiative to help Keep Bestival Tidy, Bestival has this year introduced an Eco-bond. The bond is added when people buy tickets as a fully refundable £10 litter surcharge. To claim money back, festival-goers must present a clear sack of recycling and a refuse bag full of litter to the litter station, with free sacks provided on site. Shambala’s scheme is very similar, with the added incentive that randomly selected people returning their waste will be rewarded with free tickets to next year’s festival. Reading and Leeds are also promoting ‘zero waste’ campsites by promising prizes, with the chance to win merchandise bundles, Co-op tokens or festival tickets.

Compostable containers

Most major festivals now expect all food and drinks outlets operating on their site to use compostable packaging. The capture of such packaging is far easier in a contained environment like a festival, provided that adequate and appropriate collection facilities, such as food and organic waste bins in this case, are in place. For example, all food and hot drinks served by traders at Latitude come in biodegradable packaging by BioPak made from waste material from the sugarcane industry, and the waste will be collected in food waste bins and then be taken to a nearby in-vessel composting plant in Parham.

TentsThis summer's festivals: Don't get wasted

A 2014 Buckinghamshire New University survey found that 86 per cent of music festival waste comes from campsites, and, particularly following campaigns by campaign group Love Your Tent, efforts are being made to stop the tide of broken, leftover tents that have become familiar post-festival images. In 2016, Bristol charity Aid Box Convoy ran a scheme during Glastonbury festival, collecting discarded tents and camping gear and donating them to refugees in Northern France. This year, Green Man festival has similar plans in place; it has teamed up with Help Refugees and Newport to Calais Aid Collective who will be collecting unwanted, unbroken camping equipment and food that will go to refugees around the world. There will be drop off points in each campsite

Additionally, a number of festivals – including Latitude, Reading and Leeds – have partnered with Kip ‘N’ Go, a business that allows you to hire a pre-pitched tent two-person tent for the length of the festival, an alternative to buying a cheap tent and discarding it. A tent costs £60, while a camping package – including two mats and sleeping bags – costs £90. The aim is to lessen wasted tents, as the business also packs all tents away at the end of the festival for reuse or recycling, maximising their life-cycles. Pink Moon Camping provides a similar service for festivals, but with more luxurious accommodation such as tipis, yurts or podpads.  

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